In Corn-Pine Opinions, the writer Mark Twain begins by describing the young black slave named Jerry. The young man was a great orator who the author found to be entertaining. Jerry imitated every pulpit style of many clergymen in the village. He did well in mimicking as well as imitating them. He exuded energy and passion and so mysterious he appeared to be. The writer believed that Jerry was the greatest narrator who one day would become a talking point in the American history (Kelly, p1). However, he was often overlooked, not listened to and unrewarded. Mark Twain thinks, that is the ways of the world. The introduction of Twains story sets up his ideals. That is, in the society, ones opinion is limited to what other people are thinking and that ones opinion is not to offend anybody, Twain. Hence in the text, the black slave was too careful when talking because his opinion could offend his masters and interfere with his source of daily meal. In such a case, it is imperative to deduce that the theme in the text Corn-Pine Opinions is public opinion and conformity. Therefore, as humans, our lives and decisions are closely embedded on others approval and that we have limited power to how we live our lives.
Public Opinion is an aggregate of individual attitudes, views and beliefs regarding a topic hence, it is expressed in a great proportion of the entire community in a society. Public Opinion is also a process of mutual influence and interaction instead of just a broad agreement. It can also be referred to as collective view of a distinct population for instance, a particular ethnic group or demography. On the other hand, conformity can be referred to as some kind of social influence that involves a change in behavior or belief with the aim of fitting in a particular social group. Such a change can be either real or imagined group pressure. Real group pressure involves the stress caused by others physical presence while imagined pressure involves the stress from social norms (Sammut and Bauer, p 8). Hence, it is proper to say that the public opinion influences one to conform to that opinion of the majority. Also, such opinions represents the actions or reasons behind the actions of the majority.
Therefore, I agree that we often feel pressured to act like the majority because if we do not, we are deemed as outsiders. For such reasons, the need to conform to our society limits our ability to prosper. It explains why Jerry, though talented, decided to confine his personality, character and talents within the small locality of his village. Since he was a slave and the white majority believed that African Americans were inferior human beings, he doubted his capabilities of being a greater person. He thought that his opinion could conflict with that of the majority whites (MuSher, p 85). Conflicts with his masters and the masters race would end his source of living. It is a fact that Twain (Kelly, p1) agrees on when he says that, No one thinks of himself or herself because for he or she is scared that being opinionated will affect their life negatively. Therefore, other people influence how we live.
From Jerrys actions of interrupting his preaching by pretending to be sowing, shows how humans are their own self-slave. Just like Jerry, we are consciously aware of the opinions directed at us and instead of listening to our thoughts and opinions; we force ourselves into acting like other people. It is also clear that most of us do not approve our decisions. Instead we look upon others to approve them (Sammut and Bauer, p 67). Therefore, in the text, we can deduce that it is people like slave masters and the white population who prevented Jerry from becoming a good orator because they perceived his race as inferior and it was to remain so. Also, Jerry allowed the fear of public opinion to hinder is prosperity. However, Jerry being from a minority race, he is bound to comply with the White mans mentality to avoid being punished (MuSher,p 84). Had he proceeded without interruption, he could have been the greatest orator in the American history. However, he thought otherwise, that his master would subject him to starvation.
Just like Twain states that the approval of self and approval from people around us change our views on morals, as humans, it is conformity that keeps us together. It is because of conformity that we can device laws that inhibit us from certain crimes and are agreeable by the majority in the society (Sammut and Bauer, p 87). For instance, it is the public opinion among the people that prevents Jerry the black slave boy, from engaging into a conflict with his master. Interestingly, his master, just like any other slave master held a belief that a black man must work hard enough with little rest (Kelly, p1). The silence of a sow was a signal to the master that his slave had either stopped working or had finished the job. It would prompt him to go and check if the job had been done to his satisfaction. Therefore, the master too had fallen to the mentality of conformity. The sound of a power sow meant that work was ongoing and vice versa. Jerry had smartly exploited the mentality of conformity by blowing his mouth to make the sound of a power sow to avoid conflicts while entertaining his friends.
Moreover, by assuming to act by myself and avoid the ways of people around me, I think the result will be people avoiding me and criticizing my actions. One must bear in mind that interacting with other people in the society is only easier when ones belief and characters conform to those of the individuals a person intends to interact with. It is through public opinion and conformity to the outer characters by every individual that we are able to be defined distinctly from other populations (Sammut and Bauer, p 32). For instance, as a young individual, it would be strange to state that I am not a subscriber to any social media. Besides, I would find it difficult to interact with my age group across the world away from social media. Therefore, I am bound to accept the reality of life and subscribe to social media for my daily interaction with my age group across the world because everyone is using the medium as a medium for both communication and interaction.
In conclusion, we have little control over the decisions we make and how we live or lives. We rely upon the approval of the people around us regarding the decisions we make. The genesis of one great form of expression involving a large population in the society is formed by a compilation of aggregated attitudes, views and believes regarding certain characters and opinions by a particular community. However, we conform to certain behaviors and believe out of fear from other people. Moreover, by letting other people dictate our lives, we limit our ability to prosper. Besides, we only become slaves of ourselves. Unfortunately, we do it to avoid conflict while we satisfy our own desires. Interestingly, it is only through public opinion and conformity that we are able to move together as a society. It helps us maintain law and order. Finally, we cannot escape conforming to our society because if we do not conform to other peoples behaviors and attitudes, we are bound live lonely because of the inability to interact with them.
ann MuSher, Sharon. "The OTher Slave NarraTiveS." The Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative (2014): 101.
Kelly, Richard. Corn-Pone Opinions.Just One Opinion. N.p., 2008.Web.27 July 2016
Sammut, Gordon, and Martin W. Bauer. "Social influence: modes and modalities." The social psychology of communication. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2011. 87-106.
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